Women’s issues are a hot topic this year for the election. You would have to be completely cut off from social media to have not yet heard about Romney’s “binders full of women” comment in the last debate. I think that statement sparked such a flame because it cuts to the heart of the question, how are women valued in politics today? Where are the women in politics? Why are issues important to women being decided by mostly men?
The comment was made in response to a question about pay equity for women (which was never answered). Romney stated (paraphrased, you can find the full transcript here):
I had the chance to pull together a cabinet [while serving as Governor] and all the applicants seemed to be men.
I went to my staff, “How come all the people for these jobs are all men.” They said, “Well, these are the people that have the qualifications.” And I said, “Well some women that are also qualified?”
We took a concerted effort to go out and find women who had backgrounds that could be qualified to become members of our cabinet.
I went to a number of women’s groups and said, “Can you help us find folks,” and they brought us whole binders full of women.
My problem with his statement (other than the fact that it wasn’t really true) is that he did not already KNOW women who were qualified. He did not go into office with the idea in his mind of women that could serve on his cabinet. Romney entered the workforce in 1975 and worked for 27 years before he ran for Governor. In all that time he never met a woman he thought was qualified? That scares the hell out of me.
I do not think this is a partisan problem. I think it stretches across party, geographical, and demographic lines. Four years ago the Democrats had the opportunity to nominate a woman for President, and they (we) failed to do it. Half the population of the United States is female, but women make up only 17% of Congress. Where are the women in politics? And what can we do to improve these numbers?
I think the first hurdle we must overcome is defining the issues that are important to us as “women’s issues”. The first thing many people think when you mention “women’s issues” are reproductive rights. While I do agree that is an important topic, it is not the only one, and for me it is not even the most important one.
The women I know are concerned about the economy, education, taxes, healthcare, Social Security, the environment, foreign policy, fair pay, marriage equality, aging and ailing parents, gun control… You name it. The issues are as diverse as the women. The problem, as I see it, is having our voice heard on these issues and not being relegated to “well let’s give her some flex time so she can go home and cook dinner.”
I know it is easy to be apathetic. We are tired. We are busy. We are overwhelmed with our day to day responsibilities. We feel like we are powerless. But the truth is, the only way to make change is to be informed, speak up, and become involved.
Being informed can be as simple as finding one issue that is important to you and researching it online. Find out how your state and federal representatives are voting on that issue and whether or not they have any pending legislation related to it. Research the platform for both political parties and see where they stand on your issue. You don’t have to focus on everything, but you should focus on YOUR thing.
Volunteering with your local party or candidate is pretty easy as well. You can sign up online to stuff envelopes, make phone calls, work the polling stations… whatever can fit into your schedule. One afternoon of stuffing envelopes can make a difference. You never know who might read that insert and make the decision to vote. You never know what opportunities volunteering may present to you.
Everyone reading this post has a voice. Be it through your own blog, Twitter, Facebook, your church, a community organization, volunteering, women’s group… You have a platform for your thoughts and opinions. Use it. The days of not talking about politics in polite company are over. We can not let your manners get in the way of being heard. Be kind. Be compassionate. Be respectful. Be heard.
What is the most important issue in the upcoming election to YOU? Where do you stand on women in politics? What do you think we can do as mothers to help our daughters gain ground in politics in the future?